STREETCARS

Know your transit methods’ purposes

As policymakers, state Sen. David Osmek and state Rep. Linda Runbeck (“Why the Legislature should put brakes on streetcar dreams,” Jan. 18) should know better than to cite bus rapid transit (BRT) as a cheaper alternative to streetcars. Like light-rail transit, BRT requires dedicated lanes and is meant primarily for longer point-to-point commutes.

Streetcars are different. They share the road with other vehicles and serve instead to connect areas of contiguous urban fabric, such as along a commercial corridor. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, these areas essentially form live-work campuses that offer residents access to jobs and also the myriad goods, services and civic attractions that make the city a draw.

A fast bus is not going to make Nicollet Avenue or Broadway more attractive as places to live or have a business. The reliability, regularity and comfort of a modern streetcar line most definitely will.

JOHN VAN HEEL, Minneapolis

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While the article contained thought-provoking ideas about how the metro area should proceed in designing its transit system, it also contained off-the-cuff accusations that would leave the uninformed reader to assume that the current light-rail system is suffering from low ridership, which is certainly not the case. Osmek and Runbeck also state that the system is “deficit-­ridden,” which seems to be a phrase thrown out by legislators not in favor of building 21st-century transit amenities — as though building roads were a profitable undertaking for the government.

Osmek and Runbeck mention businesses that have closed during the construction of the Central Corridor light-rail line, yet they make no mention of the many businesses that decided to stick it out because they are confident that the new line will be beneficial for them. The legislators also make no mention of all the new businesses that have opened or that are in the process of opening along the Central Corridor.

By now, our legislators ought to be clearly aware of population trends in Minnesota and nationally. Additionally, we need to be aware of what employers face when competing for employees, and what metro areas face when competing for employers. Those discussions continue to point toward public transit that includes light rail and streetcars.

JAMES NASTOFF, Minneapolis

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I can’t believe I’m writing this, because I almost always disagree with Republicans who oppose mass transit spending and raising taxes to pay for it. But Runbeck and Osmek are absolutely right about streetcar lines.

The big point they make, that streetcar tracks are inflexible, makes the expenditure to build them all that much more obscene. Hybrid buses can, at least, go around obstructions or even take a different route under exigent circumstances.

Light rail is different because it serves more than one community and can move many more people during, say, rush hour. Plus, it’s on dedicated tracks away from the main roadway. Streetcars take up a lane and gum up traffic even more than it is. Better to spend that money on resurfacing the streets and highways that are in horrible, even dangerous, condition.

KEVIN DRISCOLL, St. Paul

OHIO EXECUTION

It wasn’t botched; death is like that

When condemned killer Dennis McGuire was executed last week in Ohio, his attorney called the execution “a failed, agonizing experiment” (“New drugs prolong Ohio man’s execution,” Jan. 17). He was dead wrong. He used hysterical, theatrical language to describe the usual death process because, lacking medical training, he did not understand what he was seeing.

To say that the execution method caused McGuire to suffer “agony and terror” while struggling to catch his breath is scientifically wrong. Irregular breathing and gasping is an involuntary act called agonal gasping that occurs as a primitive reflex at and after the time of death. It is commonly seen for several minutes even after cardiac arrest. If previous drug combinations caused muscle paralysis, this reflex couldn’t occur.

Midazolam is not an experimental drug. It is commonly used for surgical anesthesia because it is fast-acting. With its use in combination with hydromorphone, McGuire was “asleep” within seconds. He lay “motionless” for five minutes before the gasping began because he was unconscious and dying.

Joy Stewart, the woman he raped and stabbed to death, did not die by quietly falling asleep and not awakening. I would urge that Ohio not block the method used in McGuire’s execution and that anyone attending such executions be instructed on what they will see, including agonal gasping.

Dr. JAMES BUKSTEIN, New Hope

GENERAL MILLS

For domestic growth, offer quality calories

It’s unfortunate that the Jan. 17 article noting Ian Friendly’s 30 years of service to General Mills (“Leadership change comes at key time for General Mills unit”) turned him into a scapegoat for the company’s anemic growth. Aside from missing the incremental growth of the Greek yogurt juggernaut (“General Mills to launch Greek yogurt ad blitz,” Jan. 20), General Mills suffers from the same challenge as other multinational food conglomerates: a portfolio full of cheap calories. In a country awash in calories, the last thing needed is more line extensions of inexpensive, empty calories. Until General Mills and others start offering higher-quality calories, domestic growth will be hard for any manager to find, no matter how many years of service to the company.

JOHN DEPAOLIS, Excelsior